Patients with artificial heart valves are at a higher risk of clot formation. The elevated risk is known from the observation of patients after the implantation of an artificial valve. The clotting risk factor is particularly severe for the recipients of mechanical heart valves, where the patients must receive blood thinners every day to combat the risk of stroke. So far, it is unclear why mechanical heart valves promote clot formation far more than other valve types, e.g. biological heart valves.
A team of engineers from the Cardiovascular Engineering Group at the ARTORG Center for Biomedical Engineering Research at the University of Bern has now successfully identified a mechanism that can significantly contribute to clot formation. They used complex mathematical methods of hydrodynamic stability theory, a subfield of fluid mechanics, which has been used successfully for many decades to develop fuel-efficient aircrafts. This is the first translation of these methods, which combine physics and applied mathematics, into medicine.
Computer - Simulations - Flagship - Supercomputers - Centro
Using complex computer simulations on flagship supercomputers at the Centro Svizzero di Calcolo Scientifico in Lugano, the research team was able to show that the current shape of the flow-regulating flaps of the heart valve leads to strong turbulence in the blood flow. "By navigating through the simulation data, we found how the blood impinges at the front edge of the valve flaps, and how the blood flow quickly becomes unstable and forms turbulent vortices," explains Hadi Zolfaghari, first author of the study. "The strong forces generated in this process could activate the blood coagulation and cause clots to form immediately behind the valve. Supercomputers helped us to capture one root cause of turbulence in these valves, and hydrodynamic stability theory helped us to find an engineering fix for it."
The mechanical heart valves which were used in the study consist of a metal ring...
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